Total solar eclipse 2024: This is how and when to see it as it crosses North America

Tyler Hanson, of Fort Rucker, Ala., watches the sun moments before the total eclipse, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn.
Tyler Hanson, of Fort Rucker, Ala., watches the sun moments before the total eclipse, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. Copyright John Minchillo/AP
By Euronews with AP
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After the total solar eclipse in North America, Europe will see the next one in August 2026 when it crosses the northern parts of Greenland, Iceland and Spain.

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A total solar eclipse will be seen across parts of Mexico, the US, and Canada, darkening the sky on April 8.

A full solar eclipse occurs when the Moon perfectly positions itself between Earth and the Sun, temporarily blocking sunlight.

The closer the Moon is and the farther the Sun is the longer the totality can be.

On April 7, the Moon will make the month’s closest approach to Earth and it will therefore appear slightly bigger in the sky, making the total solar eclipse last up to 4 minutes and 28 seconds in some areas.

"It's very interesting that nowhere else in our solar system, that we know of, has the right size moon to just block the exact surface of the Sun. And that's just very unique, you know, Earth is special," said Kelly Korreck, NASA’s Programme Manager for 2023 and 2024 Solar Eclipses.

It's very interesting that nowhere else in our solar system, that we know of, has the right size moon to just block the exact surface of the Sun.
Kelly Korreck
Programme Manager for 2023 and 2024 Solar Eclipses, NASA

Experts say full solar eclipses often occur in the middle of nowhere like in the South Pacific or Antarctic.

But it usually takes 400 years to 1,000 years before totality returns to the same spot, according to NASA’s Korreck.

Europe will see the next total solar eclipse in August 2026 when it crosses the northern fringes of Greenland, Iceland, and Spain.

A total eclipse will be visible again in Spain less than a year later in August 2027.

It won’t be until 2061 when a total eclipse will happen again in Europe after 2027.

What happens during a total solar eclipse?

Just a few minutes before totality, viewers may see shadow bands - elusive wavy lines that can be seen moving across solid surfaces. They are usually faint and difficult to photograph.

"So a few minutes before totality, when the Sun gets to be really, really skinny, there's a diffraction pattern of sunlight that is on the ground, but it's sweeping past you at a thousand miles an hour [1600 kph]. And so you see that light on the ground look like little ripples," said Patricia Reiff, a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University.

As the Sun is almost completely covered, only its corona will remain visible, along with a lone bright spot along the edge of the Moon, the so-called "diamond ring".

During totality, eclipse watchers can look around the horizon in all directions and see what looks like a 360-degree sunset effect.

"You'll see this reddish glow, and that's because those regions aren't in totality," Reiff said.

"They're still getting a little sunshine, and so we're seeing the scattered light from their sunlight".

During totality, planets are visible in the darkened sky, though some may be too dim to see without a telescope.

During April’s totality in North America, Jupiter and Venus should be visible on either side of the Sun along with Mars and Saturn, according to Reiff.

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Ahead of the astonishing event, experts are urging observers to wear special eclipse glasses to protect their eyesight when it occurs.

"We're making sure that folks understand watching the partial eclipse could damage your eyes. So you're always going to use an indirect viewing method or the solar viewing glasses," said Korreck.

During totality when the Sun is completely shrouded, it’s fine to remove glasses and look with your eyes. But before and after, certified eclipse glasses are essential to avoid eye damage.

Cameras, binoculars, and telescopes must also be outfitted with special solar filters for safe viewing, experts said.

For more on this story, watch the video in the media player above.

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Video editor • Roselyne Min

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